A SHORTAGE of burial space in Kidlington could mean residents are buried on land almost a mile from the parish church.

The cemetery next to St Mary's Church is expected to run out of plots within five years, and parish councillors are desperate to find a solution.

Land agents hired to scour the village for new sites have found two options - expanding the cemetery west of the church or buying up agricultural land east of the village near Beagles Close.

But fears both sites could be waterlogged are preventing swift action.

Parish clerk Trish Redpath said councillors were determined to expand the existing site if possible because they believed residents would dislike a move away from the church.

But she said councillors believed the Environment Agency (EA) could object.

"We've been lucky to have had land around the church for a long time and I think people assume it will be there forever," she said.

"We would like to be able to go to the west of the existing site but we are very much aware of the water table.

"Circumstances are forcing the council to make a decision and the time is right to have a public debate."

The second site identified is east of Bicester Road, near Beagles Close.

The land is saturated within half-a-metre of the surface, but surveys suggest the soil is better suited than west of the church.

The parish council agreed to consult with the EA about the two options at a special meeting on Thursday.

Parish councillor David Betts said: "These sorts of applications are likely to be emotive and we must be certain we can overcome any EA objections before we can submit a planning application."

Canon Anthony Ellis, rector of Kidlington, said he had every sympathy with the council's situation.

He said: "I've been concerned for some time about the diminishing capacity of the cemetery.

"For generations burials have taken place within the churchyard or in the adjacent cemetery and I sense the people of Kidlington would like loved ones to be buried in the same area of the village.

"However, I have sympathy for the council because I'm aware the agency has very strict rules about new burial grounds and I fear it will object to people being buried in the area adjacent to the existing burial ground."